Grover Norquist, labeled by MSNBC "the most influential man in America who doesn't sleep in the White House," said Thursday, no question about it, the House's 13th-hour fiscal-cliff compromise was a "colossal victory" for Republicans -- and for 99 percent of American taxpayers.
"What happened," he said, "is the Democrats lost their leverage. What's not to like?"
Looking relaxed, sounding precisely as "happy" as he professed to be, the president of Americans for Tax Reform was at the state Capitol to speak to the Tallahassee Chapter of the Center Right Coalition.
In an exclusive interview with Sunshine State News before his address, Norquist -- the man behind the pledge that commits all candidates for federal and state office to oppose every tax increase -- defended his go-along position on the fiscal-cliff compromise. It was a compromise that did indeed see taxes rise, if only on the wealthiest Americans.
"Let me tell you why I'm so happy, and why thinking, serious Democrats like Robert Reich and PeterOrzsag are so miserable.
"First, noRepublican voted for a tax increase.... This was a very smart operation ...
The Bush tax cuts lapsed at midnight on the 1st (of January). That means every House Republican who voted for the Senate bill was voting to cut taxes and was keeping the pledge. By voting 'yes,' they were reinstating the Bush tax cuts," Norquist said. "And here's the real prize of all ... they were making those tax cuts permanent. After 12 years, nobody is going to play around with them without the involvement of the House, the Senate and the president.
"That's what makes Obama and the Democrats very unhappy.
"Did we get everything we wanted? No.
"But keep in mind where we were heading. As unpleasant as this deal was in many respects, we had to get out of the position we were in. There was a $500 billion taxincreaseleveled at all Americans immediately if nothing happened. ... Over a decade it would have been a $500 trillion tax increase."
Norquist explained, "The Bush tax cuts were due to expire two years ago and Obama extended them for everybody for two years. Then he said he was worried about the economy and jobs. Funny thing, though. As soon as his job was safe, he didn't care about the others anymore. ...
"What House Republicans accomplished was to restore 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts to 99 percent of the people. There's no way that can be perceived as anything but a win for the good guys.
"What happened was, Obama was holding a sword over the heads of the American people. We knew he was never ever going to consider entitlement reforms. We knew if you allow the president and the Democrats to raise taxes, they're not going to deal with spending. Sixty-three percent of Americans think we need restraint on spending. We certainly do. That's why it's absolutely paramount to contain taxes."
Norquist said making the tax cuts permanent is only the first of four critical steps to survive the cliff. The next is sequestration, two months away, when a $1.2 trillion spending cut becomes automatic. The last two steps are debt ceiling and continuing resolution. "The power is now on our side for those fights," he said.
Those who know Norquist best describe him as something akin to a force of nature.Political satirist P.J. ORourke calls him "Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupn of Madame Defarge. Sen. MitchMcConnell pays him this compliment: "Its because of soldiers like Grover that the conservative movement is so vibrant today and that the liberals who thought they had taken over two years ago are on the run."
Ever since the night of Jan. 1, when he tweeted to the world that he was happy with the outcome of the compromise vote, Norquist has been cannon fodder for both left and right. He seems genuinely unruffled, going about his rounds, as he was in Tallahassee, explaining "why the good guys won."
Libertarian Norquist, 56, has been at this for 28 years. He founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 at the request of President Ronald Reagan. The organization works to limit the size and cost of government. It opposes higher taxes at the federal, state, and local levels.
ATR is probably best known for organizing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. In the 112th Congress just ended, 238 House members and 41 senators took the pledge; on the state level, 13 governors and 1,244 state legislators signed the document.
"There are 60 similar organizations to the Center Right Coalition in 48 states," Norquist said, "and I try to get to as many as I can. I always like coming to Tallahassee."
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.